Review: Nokia 5610 XpressMusic

09Apr08

Nokia 5610 XpressMusic - Flickrstream

In order to continually satisfy the huge variety of markets that the Finnish telecom giant Nokia serves, the manufacturer consistently churns out new models — sometimes to replace predecessors which are less than six months old.

The Nokia 5610 XpressMusic is such an update — to which model, it is not entirely clear, but the 5610 refreshes and builds upon the successful XpressMusic multimedia-focussed phone range well.

Design

The 5610 is a very handsome phone. It takes the glossy design ideas from the up-market N81 model and combines them with more colourful, interesting highlights common to the other XpressMusic models.

We received the black/blue model, which could be considered to be the ‘underdog’ in terms of Nokia’s marketing schemes for the 5610; the black/red model seems to be more popular and more advertised. However, I have grown to like the blue aspects of the device over the week that I’ve used it.

On the face of the device (with the slider closed), we see the lovely 2.2″, QVGA (240×320 pixel) display which sits under glossy, black surface of the phone.

Below the display, there is a distinctive, spring-loaded slide that Nokia calls the ‘Music Slider’ – flicking this will skim between the home screen, music player and the radio with a smooth transition in between the changes. When using the music features, this is especially useful, as there are now no external play/pause/fast forward/rewind buttons on the phone, unlike XpressMusic slider phones of the past.

Under the Music Slider, we find the two standard soft keys; the send and end keys; and the five-way directional pad, whose centre button is emblazoned with a play/pause logo which serves that purpose when in the music player.

Above the display, you find the call speaker, and a front-facing camera with light. For reasons unknown, you can’t use the front-facing camera to take photos of yourself – something we found on the Nokia 6500 slide, which runs the same Symbian S40 3rd Edition operating system.

Flick up the slide, and you’ll find a standard T9 numeric keypad — with number keys that are slightly raised above the surface of the phone, and separated from each other via an indent. This is great: it makes dialing and texting by feel so much easier than on a phone with a flush keypad.

The back of the phone is endowed with a golf-ball like texture which is probably designed to prevent slip. I found it, for that use, to be quite ineffective as I felt the phone slip in my hand in fast-moving conditions. Above the huge Nokia logo that advertises the maker in camera mode, is a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus, and a dual LED flash.

The left side and bottom of the phone are both devoid of features, save for a lanyard slot on the bottom left corner.

On the right, we find a volume rocker near the top and a camera shortcut / shutter button near the bottom.

The top of the device features the various ports; unusual in a phone of this form factor, but it’s being done increasingly with Nokia sliders. From left to right, we find the Nokia proprietary charging port; a proprietary mini-USB port for sync only; the back cover eject button; and a 2.5mm headphone jack. This size headphone jack is unusual for a music phone, as people generally want to use their standard 3.5mm headphones: luckily, Nokia includes a small adapter which doubles as a FM radio receiver.

Performance

The general speed and snappiness of the 5610 left us a bit let down. Although the music slider function skimmed between music menus quickly, general reaction time through the phone menus, phonebook and internet applications through the D-pad control felt a bit average.

Once you get used to the speed not being lightning fast, it’s not a bother and it’s not annoying. Its performance is better than more expensive Samsung models we’ve tested, and that’s a good thing.

Performance in the camera application was very good. The 3.2 megapixel camera is quick to activate and focuses quickly and sharply; I suspect that it may be a Carl Zeiss lens, as it seems to be the same camera from the Carl Zeiss-equipped 6500 slide.

Picture quality was significantly above average for a phone camera. However, if you want a similar model, yet camera-focussed as apposed to music-focussed, we suggest the previously-mentioned Nokia 6500 slide ($689)

Usability

As the 5610 is powered by the common-in-midrange-Nokias Symbian S40 3rd Edition operating system, everyone who we asked to have a go on the phone was able to use it perfectly. It does what you tell it to do, and all of the controls are in the places that you expect.

As long as you use this phone, there will most likely be no nasty surprises, no unexpected problems; it is a phone built with Nokia’s undebatable build quality, and the internal software seems spot-on.

The organisational features on the 5610 are easier to use than on some Windows Mobile smartphones. I found the 5610’s software layout to be intuitive and extremely easy-to-use, and using the phone in day-to-day use was an absolute breeze.

Nokia has bundled some 3rd-party software to really make the 5610, and similarly-equipped S40 3rd Edition models, exceptional. You’ll find Yahoo! Go and Opera Mini 2 on the home screen, and both of these applications provide a rich, user-focussed web experience.

Yahoo! Go quickly became my favourite application on the phone, with its Flickr integration, weather service, RSS reader and stock reports. It incorporated the best of the web into one data-friendly package.

Opera Mini also performed well. It formatted our blog into an easily-readable, yet still good-looking mobile version. Its RSS reader was only average, however, with lots of scrolling required to navigate the list of articles in long RSS feeds like Engadget.

It was also dead easy to use the multimedia features – especially the music ones. The current music playback status is displayed on the home screen, and a flick of the nifty Music Slider allows quick pause, and change of track.

Conclusion

In a giant sea of consumer phones, the Nokia 5610 is a fairly small fish. However, it really does deserve to rise above the average Nokia slider phone; its bevy of easy-to-use applications and rich multimedia features make it the best mid-range Nokia we’ve ever seen. It should, like several of the XpressMusic models before it, appeal to the music-loving tweenage/teenage masses, and despite a few niggles, it is quite a bargain for its A$599 pricetag.

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